Healthcare: GSK handles Paxil crisis in-house

Drugs giant GSK has opted to handle comms in-house to counter US accusations of fraud over its anti-depressant Paxil.

New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer has accused GSK of withholding negative clinical data on Paxil, known as Seroxat in the UK.

His claims refer to the results of studies showing the drug was no better than a placebo and harmful in some cases, causing possible suicidal tendencies in children. GSK denies the claims.

A GSK spokesman confirmed that a 'cross-functional' in-house team was handling comms surrounding Spitzer's claims, although Cohn & Wolfe continues to promote Paxil in the US. It does not retain an agency for Seroxat in the UK.

One UK-based healthcare PR expert, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: 'With the increasing application of consumer branding learnings to the pharma industry, there is a belief that building the corporate brand would ultimately enhance the reputation and sales of the company's products.

'This latest round of accusations, coming hot on the heels of US questions over the activity of several other companies, could see an end to this... the consequences are potentially disastrous.'

Another source criticised media coverage, saying: 'The internal memo (cited in the lawsuit, concerning the dissemination of negative data) is from 1998, before the current GSK existed. However the media are reporting it as though GSK did exist then.

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